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The Longest Silence: A Life in Fishing Hardcover – October 26, 1999


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (October 26, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679454853
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679454854
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #383,559 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

As adept as Thomas McGuane has been through the years with a rod in his hand, he's even more skillful with his pen. Join the two like tippet to leader, and the result's as irresistible as a Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear in the middle of a Hendrickson hatch.

For The Longest Silence, McGuane has trolled his inventory and assembled 33 essays written over three decades. Passionate, meditative, personal, and often very funny, they are filled with fellowship and connected by his love of angling. The title piece, a certified classic in the sporting genre, chronicles his quest for the elusive permit. Since permit is about the hardest fish to catch on a fly, the expected futility of not catching one hooks McGuane's introspection, and he weighs in with trophy prose: "What is emphatic in angling is made so by the long silences--the unproductive periods. For the ardent fisherman, progress is towards the kinds of fishing that are never productive in the sense of the blood riots of the hunting-and-fishing periodicals. Their illusions of continuous action evoke for him, finally, a condition of utter, mortuary boredom."

That's McGuane on angling in a nutshell; he knows the real action is internal. Whether he's casting for salmon in Russia ("Fly-Fishing the Evil Empire"), bonefish in the Florida Keys ("Close to the Bone"), or trout in Ireland ("Back in Ireland"), the catch is secondary to the pursuit, and the pursuit has as much to do with making sense of self and the universe as it does with anything aswim in a river. "When you get to the water you will be renewed," he assures. "Leave as much behind as possible. Those motives to screw your boss or employees, cheat on your spouse, rob the state, or humiliate your companions will not serve you well if you expect to be restored in the eyes of God, fish, and the river, which will reward you with hollow waste if you don't behave. You may be cursed. You may be shriven. You may be drowned. At the very least, you may snap off your fly in the bushes." McGuane clearly wades in with honest intentions; in The Longest Silence he casts cleanly to his target again and again. --Jeff Silverman

From Publishers Weekly

Novelist McGuane (Nothing but Blue Skies, etc.) celebrates everything about angling in this collection of 33 essays, which is certain to entertain fellow enthusiasts and fans of his writing. Any notion that fishing is humdrum is dispelled when McGuane describes eloquently his lifelong love affair with the sport, from the joys of tying flies and testing different rods, to sharing ghost stories and observational gems with fellow anglers, to absorbing quietly life's mysteries. He puts into historical and literary context the classic fishing writings of Izaak Walton and Roderick Haig-Brown. Throughout, McGuane's awe at nature's splendor shines in his prose. Releasing a trout after catching it becomes a moment of reverence: "Suddenly the fish was there, its spotted back breaking the surface, then up showering streamers of silver from the mesh of the net.... I stood in the river for a long while, holding him into the current and feeling the increasing strength in a kicking tail I could barely encompass with my grip. To the north, the Aurora Austral raised a curtain of fire in the cold sky. My trout kicked free and continued his journey to the Andes." Such moments emphasize McGuane's call for preserving the world's rivers from overdevelopment. Whether he's fishing for trout in a beaver pond in Michigan, salmon in Iceland or tarpon in Key West, McGuane casts not only his fishing line, but also his magic at turning a precise phrase and evoking a delightful image. (Nov.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Well crafted, clean prose.
Former Rater
The Longest Silence is the finest book on fly fishing that I have read.
Michael R. Fisher
This is simply the best book I've ever read.
Brian M. Potvin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

94 of 97 people found the following review helpful By joe murphy on November 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
"You can't say enough about fishing; but that won't stop me," Tom McGuane wrote half a lifetime ago. He has quite a lot, indeed, to say about fishing. In "The Longest Silence," his precision of language and love of sport conjoin in a life's body of fishing essays.
McGuane is the angler we all hope to emualte. As for imitating his writing, well, lower your head, shake it and smile--it ain't happenin', bro--not in this life. And, of course, this book is nothing short of genius.
If you follow sporting writing in general and McGuane in particular few of the entries in this collection will be new to you, especially the seminal title piece: "What is most emphatic in angling is made so by the long silences---the unproductive periods." Not a problem. Few of us keep our old issues of Sports Illustrated, Men's Journal, Esquire or Sports Afield--rather, we look to compilations such as these to round out our collections. Besides, these essays are only fully appreciated after multiple (re)readings.
If McGuane is a new discovery to you, well, I can only envy you. His fiction--bought, borrowed or stolen--must be read; it is among the finest this country has to offer late in our century.
It's hard to imagine but there are probably those who enjoy McGuane's fiction but are not familiar with his sporting prose. At any rate these writings, many collected here--are without equal. Be McGuane's sporting work new, savor it. If, however, you find it familiar, then let in the dogs, light the fire, build a drink and dig in. It doesn't get any better than this.
Highly, completely and without reservation recommended. Buy this book, read it, cherish it, tell a friend.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Robert H. Miller on December 21, 1999
Format: Hardcover
In this latest effort Thomas McGuane easily proves that he is one of the preeminent writers on fishing today, and for that matter of our century. THE LONGEST SILENCE covers a life of fishing ranging from his youthful remembrances of fishing the trout streams of Michigan to more recent experiences pursuing the game fish of the oceans. McGuane combines a dazzling language and style with a real knowledge of the intricacies of the art to produce some of the best prose on angling I've encountered, equalling and bettering that of Harry Middleton, Ted Leeson, and Russell Chatham. This is truly a fine book.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Ian A Bain on May 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
It is unusual to find an author of a fishing book who is as fluent with words as he is with a fly rod. In probability, The Longest Silence will disappoint many diehard anglers anxious for 'how to' or 'where to' information. But it will delight those who relish good writing.
Drenched in atmosphere and with a warmth that glows like the embers of a campfire, this book is about the fishing, rather than the fish. Haunting, mesmerising and tremendously readable, The Longest Silence is a piece of literature that will become a fishing classic. It has been criticized for McGuane's affection for high-cost fishing holes and there may well be some merit in this, but it is the writing and not the locations that generates the fascination.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
It's nice to read a fisherman/writer who's more interested in the experience than in the pounds-per-day and the gadgetry, and takes the time to understand how flyfishing fits into larger patterns of his life. Adding to that, some of the sentences and phrasings alone are worth the price of the book. I can't agree with him that longer rods necessarily translate to tailing loops, but that's a mere quibble. Sure, some of what he relates is jet-set fishing, with a guide putting him on the fish, but he's dead honest about the experience, de-romanticizing much of it, if anything, and appreciating his guides as characters. Those who enjoy McGuane would enjoy NORTH BANK: Claiming a Place on the Rogue, another crafted and thoughtful look at flyfishing in a larger frame.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Michael R. Fisher on January 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover
There are many good books on flyfishing, but only a very few that make it to great. This is one of the latter. For this book, McGuane received the coveted Roderick Haig-Brown Award for Literature from the Federation of Fly Fishers. The Longest Silence is the finest book on fly fishing that I have read. The style of a novelist is brought fully to these pages, offering a wonderful sense of place that all successful novelists must have. For this died in the wool trout fisherman, even the title essay, which is on permit fishing, was a wonderful read. I have never seen a permit, have no strong desire to catch one, and probably will never try, but even that essay on a subject so foreign to me, rang as true as any essay can. McGuane's talent is absolutely marvellous!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 26, 1999
Format: Hardcover
McGuane's angling essays in The Longest Silence should appeal to both the sporting and non-sporting public. Hot-blooded writing swirls his decades of experiences into a landing net of honest, from-the-heart prose that speak well for appreciating Mother Nature -- the natural world. Once you finish his collection, add to your reading the classic book LIFE WITH NOAH, a posthumous memoir of Richard Smith,an Adirondack mountain fisherman, outdoorsman who was befriended by Noah John Rondeau, a hermit who lived in the Cold River valley from the 1920s until his death in the late 1960s. Both fished for their survival, for the love of the sport and had no greater respect for woodland animals and nature's importance to an individual's inner peace.
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